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The United States is a large country, filled with impressive geography, from mountains to valleys, forests and deserts, rivers and prairies. In this post, and another post this week, I am going to write more about the mountains and rivers that make up America’s landscape. These geographical features that I will be writing about are well known to most Americans, so learning more about them will help you become more familiar with the United States, and also hopefully help you envision this large and diverse country.
The United States has three major mountain chains (mountain chain = a series of connected mountains) that run north to south in North America. These three major mountain chains are located in the east, central west, and western United States. We will begin our look at these mountain ranges (mountain range = a series of connected mountains) in the east, with the oldest of these mountains.
The Appalachian Mountains: The Appalachian Mountains, or simply the ‘Appalachians,’ begin in the southern state of Alabama and continue up into the New England states and on to Canada. This mountain chain is 1,500 miles (2,414 km) long from beginning to end. The highest point in the Appalachians is in the state of North Caroline on the top of Mt. Mitchell, at 6,684 feet (2,037 meters). The Appalachian Mountains are not tall mountains compared to many other mountain chains, but they are old mountains. In fact, the Appalachians are part of the oldest mountain chain in the world. These mountains existed long before North America was its own continent!
Although the Appalachians are one long continuous chain of mountains, different people call these mountains by different names depending where they live. In the state of Virginia these mountains are called the ‘Blue Ridge Mountains,’ in New York they are called the ‘Catskills,’ in Vermont they are called the ‘Green Mountains,’ and in New Hampshire they are called the ‘White Mountains.’ In the end though most of the mountains on the east coast of the United States are all part of the Appalachian Mountain chain.
The Rocky Mountains: The Rocky Mountains, or simply the ‘Rockies,’ are found west of the Mississippi River, but not as far west as the west coast of the United States. This mountain chain is over 3,000 miles (4,828 km) long. These mountains stretch almost border to border, from the state of New Mexico in the USA up into Canada.
The highest point in the Rockies is Mt. Elbert at 14,433 feet (4,399 meters). There are many impressive and tall mountains in this chain; many above 10,000 feet.
The Rockies are also known for being the “continental divide” mountains. Just like this phrase implies, the “continental divide” divides the North American continent into two parts, one part to the east and one part to the west. The Western Continental Divide is an imaginary line that runs along a chain of mountain summits in the Rockies that divide the continent into two water drainage areas. From the continental divide in the Rockies, water (i.e. rain or snow) either flows downhill to the Mississippi River (in the east) or to the Pacific Ocean (in the west).
The Sierra Nevada & Cascade Mountains: Along the West Coast of the United States there are two mountain chains that run together from California up into Canada. The Sierra Nevada Mountains, or ‘Sierras,’ are the better known of these two mountain chains, but the Cascade Mountains, or ‘Cascades,’ are equally as beautiful and connect with the Sierras to complete this mountain chain. Together these mountains hug the entire west coast of the United States.
The Sierras, which start in southern California, are known for their beauty. It is in these mountains that the highest point in the continental United States is found, on top of Mt. Whitney, at 14,494 feet (4,418 meters).
The Cascade Mountain range stretches from northern California into the states of Oregon and Washington, and on into Canada. The most famous peaks in this chain include: Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainer (see picture above), and Mt. Saint Helen. All of these are volcanic mountains. Mt. Hood has a ski resort that operates all year round due to the continuous snow on its glaciers; Mt. Rainer is one of the most famous mountaineering mountains in the United States; and Mt. Saint Helen had the most recent major volcanic eruption in the United States – it erupted in 1980.
If you like hiking, climbing, or mountaineering there are mountains in the east, center, and west of the United States for you to enjoy! Each of these mountain chains is unique, with its own personality and beauty to enjoy.
Note: Information for this post was taken from www.worldatlas.com.